The comedian gained popularity during his role on the 1990's comedy show "Martin." He followed up his TV role with several successful movies such as 1999's "Bluestreak" 2000's "Big Momma's House" and 2001's "Black Knight." Lawrence was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on April 16, 1965, and eventually settled with his family in suburban Maryland around his sixth birthday. Soon after, his father left the family; Lawrence claims he got his start as a comedian by cheering up his mother, who was forced to support her six children by cashiering in various department stores. He attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Landover, MD, dabbling in sports and sticking with comedy, even agreeing to stop acting up in an art class in return for performing his stand-up routine in front of the other students. Soon after graduating, the bug-eyed performer earned a chance to perform on Star Search, which led to a role in 1985's What's Happening Now! Lawrence kept honing his frenetic schtick and by 1989, won two big breaks -- a supporting role in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and MCing HBO's Def Comedy Jam. Lawrence continued to rack up scene-stealing roles throughout the early '90s, including parts in House Party, House Party 2, and Boomerang, eventually landing his own series on Fox in 1992, appropriately named Martin. The show became a huge success, its risqué humor making it a ratings stalwart for more than five years and winning two NAACP Image Awards in the process, although some detractors criticized Lawrence for promoting the image of an oversexed, insensitive black man.
Two years after Martin's successful launch, Lawrence released You So Crazy!, a raunchy, vulgarity-laced comedy that originally received the NC-17 rating and was later released unrated. Its crudeness, however, didn't matter much to audiences, as You So Crazy! went on to become one of the highest-grossing concert films of its time. Lawrence appeared to have it all, professionally and privately; in 1995 he married former beauty queen Patricia Southall in a lavish ceremony and the pair had a daughter, Jasmine. Around this time, however, Lawrence's success story began to slip away, his off-camera behavior setting up what should someday be a fascinating E! True Hollywood Story.
On the set of his directorial debut, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Lawrence erupted in a violent outburst and began taking psychotropic drugs. A few months later, he was arrested for another disturbance, where he reportedly brandished a pistol and screamed at tourists and others on Ventura Boulevard. Over the next two years, his behavior became even more erratic as he racked up a series of gun-related arrests. He landed in drug rehab and filed for divorce from Southall after she got a temporary restraining order against him for yet another vicious eruption.
But the most bizarre and unsettling charges were yet to come. Tisha Campbell, Lawrence's co-star on Martin and the House Party films, filed suit against the star and the show's producers, HBO Studios, claiming Lawrence sexually harassed her to the point that she feared for her safety. The studio brokered a settlement that allowed Campbell to finish the show's final season, although she and Lawrence would never be on the soundstage together again.
Despite all the trauma, Lawrence seemed as popular as ever. He starred in four hugely commercial successes between 1995 and 1999, including Bad Boys with Will Smith, Nothing to Lose with Tim Robbins, Life with Eddie Murphy, and on his own in Blue Streak. These films made Lawrence extremely bankable -- his salary broke the ten-million-dollar mark for Big Momma's House and it seemed as if his previous troubles were behind him.
Then in 1999, while jogging to lose an extra few pounds before filming began on Big Momma's House, Lawrence collapsed into a severe coma due to heat exhaustion, delaying the production's start and firing up the old rumors of drug use and unpredictable behavior. But after recuperating, Lawrence said the coma scare put him back on the straight and narrow.
His career trajectory certainly supported this -- after the success of Big Momma's House, he reportedly earned 13 million dollars for What's the Worst That Could Happen? with Danny DeVito. He earned upwards of 16.5 million dollars for Black Knight, which featured Lawrence as a down-on-his-luck employee of a theme restaurant who finds himself transported back to medieval times. Lawrence's next film appearance, Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, once again found the popular but controversial funnyman taking to the stage, though this time in a far more personal bid to humorize the sometimes startling headlines that had left many fans fearing for both his health and sanity. Seemingly purged of his current demns and eager to settle back into a lucrative film career, Lawrence took to the screen opposite Steve Zahn for the high-speed /action comedy National Secuity (2003) before gearing up for the sequels to Bad Boys and Blue Streak.
More fun stuff about Martin Lawrence
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Spouse Patricia Southall (7 January 1995 - 17 September 1996) (divorced) 1 daughter
His trade mark: Often plays a cop or a thief, sometimes both in the same film.
Lapses into a coma after collapsing from heat exhaustion while jogging. Recovered in hospital. [25 August 1999]
Ordered to perform community service after incident in March. [17 September 1997]
Arrested outside a Hollywood nightclub after police called by a man claiming Lawrence had punched him. [28 March 1997]
Arrested at Burbank Airport for carrying a loaded gun in his suitcase. [August 1996]
His ex-wife, Patricia, was Miss Virginia.
Graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland.
Was a Mid-Atlantic Golden Gloves boxing contender in his teens.
Brother of Robert Lawrence
Claims he got his start as a comedian by cheering up his mother, who was forced to support her six children by cashiering in various department stores.
His teachers used to give him the last few minutes of class to make his classmates laugh
Brother of Rae Proctor
Was once engaged to "Saved by the Bell" (1989) actress Lark Voorhies.
Is from the same Metro Area as Sandra Bullock, David Chappelle, Mya, Regina Hall and Dwayne Winstead.
His mother was in her mid-40s when she gave birth to him.
Agents discovered him on 'Star Search.'
His personal quotes:
"No one is immune to the trials and tribulations of life."
Bad Boys II (2003) $20,000,000
National Security (2003) $20,000,000
Black Knight (2001) $16,500,000
What's the Worst That Could Happen? (2001) $13,000,000
Life (1999) $8,500,000
Nothing to Lose (1997) $6,000,000
Martin Lawrence: Bad Boys II
In recent years former stand-up comic Martin Lawrence has been a bad, bad boy - arrested numerous times for brawling, and carrying a loaded weapon. Unfortunately, his CV is as dodgy as his rap sheet. After the international flop that was National Security and the loathsome Black Knight, Lawrence re-teams with clean-cut buddy Will Smith for Bad Boys II.
How did you feel re-visting this character after eight years?
It was a challenge. It was a lot of fun to try and figure out if we could get the characters in sync, and get them to relate the way they did years ago. It was a lot of fun for me.
What about the story?
For me the story was cool. In my own personal life, I've had to find ways to deal with the pressures. For my character to sit down and talk to a counsellor was cool for me too, you know?
Michael Bay certainly put you through your paces in this movie, didn't he?
The action sequences weren't easy, but we survived it. The car chases, the stunts, all that stuff. When you're working for Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer, you're like a kid who gets to play cops and robbers on the biggest level.
Did you ever find yourself in any real danger on the set?
We did a scene where one of the cars flips over my head, and that was real scary. I was very nervous, very nervous. It was scary, but Mike's not going to put us in a situation that's very dangerous.
What took so long for a sequel?
We were trying to find a good script. Then we had Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Will, and myself all trying to get our schedules together. That's not really easy, you know? We could have rushed into a sequel, but we didn't want to give audiences just anything. We wanted to give you something that was worth it. If it's worth it, it doesn't matter about the time scale. They're interesting characters, and me and Will have a wonderful chemistry together.
Where does that come from?
Having a great deal of respect for each other, and that's a good thing.
Martin Lawrence: National Security
Since "Bad Boys", former stand-up comic Martin Lawrence has become one of the world's most bankable film stars, now reportedly commanding fees of $20m per picture. His latest is comedy-action movie "National Security".
"National Security" features a lot of impressive car crashes and stunts. Did you do any of them yourself?
Yeah, most of 'em. [Laughs] No, that's what the stuntmen are for.
What was it like working with Steve Zahn?
Steve is a very talented man. He got into the character and was so believable as a cop. He gave me a lot to play off. My character is cocky and always challenging authority. The contrast was awesome.
Did you have any qualms about taking the subject of police brutality and playing it for laughs?
First and foremost, I'm a comedian. I'm an actor. And I think the director, Dennis Dugan, dealt with the sensitivity of the subject well. The race thing only comes into play because he's a white cop, I'm a black guy. We were able to tap into people's emotions in that many things can be misunderstood.
As a comic do you go deliberately for shock value and then work it through in a humorous manner?
No. My comedic instinct is to go for what's funny. I don't just go out to shock people. If it's funny and then happens to shock people, then hey, all's well and good. But comedy always comes first.
Is it difficult taking your stand up comedy instincts and putting it into the discipline of film?
Yeah, but that's the beauty of being - hopefully! - well rounded. You don't just learn one perspective of the game, you learn the whole game. Humour is universal. Whatever capacity you're presenting humour in, you have to understand the timing, the setting and the tone.
You're reuniting this summer with Will Smith, Michael Bay, and Jerry Bruckheimer for "Bad Boys II", the sequel to 1995's "Bad Boys". Why the delay?
Everybody's gone off, done their own thing, and had their own success. It just took eight years to get us all together again! Plus the script wasn't quite right, there were a lot of different drafts. We were supposed to shoot in London at one point, but that fell through.
A lot of comics and comic actors go into straight drama. Is that something you'd like to do?
I would love to. If it's the right dramatic role and I can get into it and make it believable, I'm all over it. I just don't get those scripts!
Bad Boys II: An Interview with Martin Lawrence
It’s hard to maintain a certain status in Hollywood. Everyone has ups and downs in this game. You just have to be level-headed and be strong to survive this business. Sequels have a way of bringing back the glory to actors who are going through a dry spell. After Bad Boys became the highest grossing film for Sony Pictures in 1995 with $65M, Martin Lawrence was on a big roll. He had hits with Life, Blue Streak, and Big Momma’s House. He joined the $20M, and life hasn’t been the same. It’s no secret that he went through personal issues and it may have affected his film status. His last four films, which include Black Knight and National Security, haven’t been winners at the box office. But if Arnold Schwarzenegger can make a financial comeback each time he appears as the Terminator, why can’t Martin do the same. Teaming up with Will Smith once again, Martin Lawrence reprises his role as Marcus Burnett in Bad Boys II. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Martin talks briefly about what gets him going.
WM: Can you talk about finding your center in life?
ML: I know you think I’m crazy. I go into a different room and I actually felt like it takes me to a better place positive instead of negative. When we got the script Bad Boys II and my character takes time out to meditate I loved it. I said that’s perfect because I could feel that. You’re always trying to get to a better place. Come on just driving in traffic instead of cussin’ somebody out. It takes work and be able to come to a place and try to calm yourself. It’s the every day struggle but it’s a must because it’s healthier. If somebody pisses me off and I understand it ain’t personal then I’ll go to another place and I’ll meditate.
WM: Do you think folks will find the violence in the film too excessive?
ML: I don’t know why they would react like that. It’s an illusion. What makes kids see a movie and drive fast? As time goes on the only thing we could do is try to help that and I think it starts with the parents. You know your child is gonna see a movie and it may have those things then maybe you need to go with him to see how they react and then you could address why did they think it was funny. There are so many faces to comedy. Sometimes people are not laughing out of the fact that when there’s something really funny; they’re laughing out of pain. Our psyche in this world is all f**ked. We giggle at things that are the hardest things to embrace but it’s because we are so crazy so to speak. You’re seeing a world, a society of people looking through their eyes and finding crutches to deal with a lot of the pains and heartaches.
WM: In the film, your character goes through the motion of having swallowed some ecstasy pills. Do you do any research on its effects?
ML: I watched a tape where some people were doing X and a father that couldn’t get off of it and was hanging with his children. It was real sad to me to see that. I didn’t wanna not do some research and not be accurate. I noticed the sweating and thirst, all of those things so we tried to figure out a way of making it humorous (like when I drink the water out of the flower vase) but at the same time understand that it has its effects.
WM: Have we seen the best of Martin Lawrence?
ML: Nobody’s ever challenged me and tapped into what I can do. I ain’t played a villain which I believe I can do and do real well. There hasn’t been any director who has been able to challenge me to go there. At this point in my life I’ve done a lot of things from stand-up to my own television show for five years to successful comedy shows, and concert films. There’s just a matter of getting better and up the game. That’s what’s exciting to me. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface and really understand the game and the talents I’m fortunate enough to be blessed with. I don’t really feel like you’ve seen the best of me. I will ride this mother f**cker till the wheels fall off!
Smith and Lawrence Want 'Bad Boys III'
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence had so much fun making their upcoming action flick Bad Boys II they are already lobbying for a third installment. The screen stars, who have re-teamed for the follow-up to their 1995 hit Bad Boys, will hit screens next month for more of their action-comedy capers. And Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer is already hoping to get them back onscreen together. He says, "When we had about two weeks of shooting left to go on Bad Boys II, Will and Martin were having such a good time, they phoned (Columbia studio boss) Amy Pascal and said, 'We want to sign up for another one.' So hopefully we'll get them all back together again in a year or two."
Bad Boy Michael Bay?
Director Michael Bay could be taking the title of his latest film, Bad Boys II, too literally - he is reportedly living up to his volatile persona on-set. The Pearl Harbor film-maker is in the midst of shooting Bad Boys II with the original 1995 flick's stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. According to a source speaking to the New York Daily News, shooting was underway in Miami's Coral Gables neighborhood one day when an elderly man watching the scene succumbed to the heat. Paramedics were still removing the man when, the source says, Bay asked, "Can't you hurry it up?" A Columbia TriStar spokesman confirmed the incident, but denied that Bay showed any insensitivity. The 38-year-old director once admitted to an interviewer, "I yell a lot. I'm very vocal and demanding, but that's because I'm making massive, noisy movies and I need to keep control." But the New York Daily News source says Bay wasn't the only one with an ego. The insider adds, "Will Smith couldn't have been nicer," but Martin Lawrence "could be demanding." When he saw that Smith had a two-storey trailer, Lawrence reportedly insisted on an unprecedented three-storey trailer with a separate area for playing basketball. A representative for Lawrence said his "trailer is a personal matter."
'Bad Boys' Back in Style
Makers of the new Bad Boys sequel have hit out at reports the big-budget blockbuster is in trouble - needing drastic rework before it is ready for release. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have reunited eight years after the original film scooped $140 million at the box office. But Bad Boys II - due for release in July - was reported to be causing Studio bosses difficulties, because it's too long, too expensive and too violent. A source told American gossip site Pagesix, "The budget was pushed from $120 million to close to $200 million. "This movie was originally scheduled for release in 1997 and went through eight rewrites by 15 writers." But Sony Pictures vice chairman Amy Pascal and Bad Boys II producer Jerry Bruckheimer have laughed off reports of on-set strife. Pascal insists director Michael Bay is in the process of cutting the picture's length. She says, "The movie was in pre-production in 1997-1998. It ended up not happening because there was a scheduling conflict with Will, who had to do Men In Black." And Bruckheimer denies the movie is overly violent, "The movie is R-rated. It is not candy-coated - it is exciting." Rumors the film is set to bomb are also blasted by Pascal, who raves about the sequel. She gushes, "It's one of the most entertaining movies I have ever seen. We had a focus-group screening the other day of 18 people and when we asked them what we should change - everyone said nothing."
Martin Lawrence's 'National Security'
Many critics agree that National Security, starring Martin Lawrence, is the kind of movie that is often dumped in January, when moviegoing ordinarily drops. "January dreck," the New York Post's Jonathan Foreman calls it. Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post writes that it's the kind of movie that will cause audiences to "pray that January will end miraculously early this year." Nevertheless, Melinda Ennis in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution observes that as bad as the movie is, it "is sure to be another hit for Lawrence and is his first role as a 'twenty-million dollar-man' -- his fee for this movie." And Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, who frequently appears to play devil's advocate among the nation's top film reviewers these days, comments that the film is "both laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly subtle" that is "irrepressibly good-natured, a deftly paced and structured action comedy."
Martin Lawrence Demands Only the Best
Comic-turned-actor Martin Lawrence seems to have taken a slide back into his past prima donna ways, after insisting on the most lavish of trailers on the set of Bad Boys 2. Lawrence, 37, who had previously claimed that his Bad Boys co-star Will Smith had coaxed him away from his old demanding ways, is currently filming the sequel in Miami, Florida, has a private tour bus "loaded with everything," including a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and a lounge complete with a heavy- duty stereo system and satellite TV, say sources. And, according to American magazine Us Weekly, to ensure optimum privacy, Lawrence has ensured that only he can access his bedroom area, with a little technological help. A source says, "He has a hand sensor that reads his hand print only and is needed to gain access to his bedroom." Just last month, it was revealed that the funnyman had demanded that the mini-compound that houses the stars' trailers be surrounded by an eight-foot fence so as to prevent paparazzi getting unauthorized photos of himself. He has also reportedly stipulated that a basketball court be built close to his trailer, that he have his own personal chef, that he be ferried everywhere in a limo and that the crew address him as "Mr. Lawrence."
Martin Lawrence Snatches Interview
Comic Martin Lawrence proved all is not well in his world when his press agents seized a videotape of an interview he'd conducted with Fox News entertainment reporter Bill McCuddy. Lawrence was so pleased with his recent one-off stand-up show that he's releasing Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat as a video for sale next month. The show involves Lawrence talking straight about his troubles with marijuana and the bizarre situations he got into. The Bad Boys star's honesty was the reason that McCuddy thought he was within his rights to ask about incidents, in 1996 and 1999, when Lawrence waved a gun in a busy LA intersection and, later, fell into a coma after a long jog in the blazing summer heat. The reporter says, "I wasn't working on upsetting him," claiming that when he brought up the incidents Lawrence "called me a f**k-head," and adding "the interview was essentially over." He says Lawrence's spokesman, Arnold Robinson, and two Paramount reps refused to hand over the footage and that he is still waiting to get his tape back. McCuddy adds, "The thesis of Runteldat is that nobody lets him tell his side of the story. If they keep taking away the tapes, he never will."
Martin Lawrece: Black Knight
Martin Lawrence continues to attract extreme reactions from critics with his Black Knight.Clearly, his detractors sat through the film stone-faced. Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail figures that "the writers must have handed in a rough draft of the script, with lots of blank places between the dialogue where they wrote "Insert really funny bit here." And then they went for a long lunch." Chris Vognar in the Dallas Morning News calls the movie, "a high concept knocked down to its lowest possible intelligence level." And Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post calls it a "cheesy, cheap-looking update of A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court. Calling Lawrence "the Stepin Fetchit of our age," Foreman writes that his character is "a shiftless, mugging, leering, inarticulate L.A. black man who rolls his eyes and ambles around like one of the chimps in Planet of the Apes." Had the film been co-produced by the Ku Klux Klan, Foreman comments, "it could hardly be more repellently stereotypical." On the other hand, Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post calls the film "slight but highly enjoyable." And you have to wonder if Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times even saw the same movie as some of his more censorious colleagues. Black Knight, he writes, "is a rip-roaring time-travel comedy tailored beautifully to Martin Lawrence's protean talent. It has more hilarious throwaway lines than most comedies offer up as their best jokes, and it is consistently inspired, energetic and, most important, light on its feet."
Martin Lawrence: What's The Worst That Could Happen?
What's the Worst that Could Happen? is also attracting mixed reviews -- for example, Terry Lawson's in the Detroit Free Press: "While good casting can't turn a bad script into a great movie, sometimes it can elevate a mediocre script into a watchable, passable movie, which is the case with What's the Worst that Could Happen?" On the other hand, Lou Lumenick comments in the New York Post that the movie "isn't quite a worst-case scenario -- but laughs are scarce in this bungled comic caper, even with Martin Lawrence, Danny DeVito and a lot of other funny performers." Kevin Thomas makes a similar point in the Los Angeles Times: "What's the Worst That Could Happen? teams Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito and backs them up with a raft of talented performers," he writes, "but the best that can be said for this MGM David vs. Goliath crime comedy is that it gives one and all a chance to do their comic turns."
Will Smith And Martin Lawrence Bring Bad Boys Back
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are in talks to do a sequel to hit movie Bad Boys. Smith is already about to embark on a follow-up to his sci-fi adventure Men In Black but according to Lawrence, as soon as he's finished that film, he and Smith will set to work on Bad Boys II, which is already being written. He says, "We're talking about it now. I just talked to the head of Columbia and she's excited about it. It's just about getting me and Will together at the same time."
Look Who Manages The Impossible
The real surprise at the box office was not the fact that Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible 2 earned $27 million in its second weekend, but that Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House (2000) earned $25.6 million (the most ever earned by a Lawrence movie). In an interview with the Associated Press, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian commented, "Big Momma's House is a product of perfect timing. ... Every other genre seemed to be represented in the top 10 last weekend except for an urban comedy." But entertainment analyst Art Rockwell, interviewed by Bloomberg News, called the genre "youth comedy" and said that producing such movies "is an easy way to make money if done right." Rockwell added that the film's producer, 20th Century Fox, "has been cold lately, and this certainly is a big shot in the arm."
Big Momma's House
Big Momma's House (2000) is another one of those Martin Lawrence comedies that critics apparently feel guilty about laughing at. The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter candidly expresses his ambivalent feelings about the movie this way: "Did I laugh? Endlessly. Do I approve? A man with character has to cling to his standards, particularly in the face of temptation, no matter what. That would not include me, pal, no way. If you make me laugh--particularly that fourth-grader inside me, a smartass, nasty little punk--I like it. I like it a lot." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal remarks: "What starts as appalling grows reasonably appealing, and the movie delivers some honest laughs." The review by the New York Times' Elvis Mitchell contains such lines as "Mr. Lawrence gets laughs when, as Big Momma, he leads the church in a rendition of 'Oh Happy Day'" and "A restless actor, Mr. Lawrence is better when forced to react to his co-stars." But Mitchell seems to avoid indicating whether he liked the film. Roger Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun-Times contains this cryptic line: "While it's true that comedy can redeem bad taste, it can be appalling when bad taste thinks it is being redeemed by comedy, and is wrong." Ebert nevertheless concedes: "I laughed a lot during Big Momma's House (2000). I also spent a certain amount of time staring at the screen in disbelief." Phillip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News simply sums it all up this way: "This is a really dumb movie with some really big laughs."